We’re just over two months and 1100 miles into our six months of Hyundai i30 N ‘ownership’, and so far, so good. Well, mostly. We have good things to report, along with a few gripes…
Apparently there are over 4000 potential combinations within the driver settings of the i30 N. Which is absurd. Fortunately, it hasn’t been hard for me to suss out which of the 4000 or so to go for when out for a drive on a nice bit of road: you want everything turned up to full (which is either ‘Sport’ or ‘Sport+’ depending on the aspect of the car you’re fiddling with), with the steering and suspension left in ‘Normal’.
The reason? The steering is excessively weighty in Sport and Sport+, and the suspension is punishingly firm in anything other than Normal. As we’ve found before with earlier drives of the i30 N, the Sport+ mode in particular has a brutally hard rebound stroke. It makes the car uncomfortable, and it means it just never settles down when you’re driving it hard. Fortunately, Normal is more than firm enough, and in that mode the body control is generally very good.
The front end of the i30 N is a stubborn old thing. In the dry, even with the traction control turned off fully, it’s very, very hard to reach the limit. Instead, it just hangs on and makes your face hurt as lateral g-forces pummel you.
In fact, we tested ‘our’ i30 N against Seat’s Leon Cupra R (full story soon), and found it was the Hyundai that had the superior front end. To say that this upstart is more capable than the best hot hatch Seat - an experienced hand in this business - has ever made is one mighty achievement.
It only seems to take a bit of drizzle for the AEB braking sensor to throw a hissy fit. You don’t just get the warning cropping up once and then disappearing, either: on one journey of only around an hour, the display you see above came up five times.
After chatting with Hyundai UK, it turns out this is a known fault - we’ll be booking the i30 N into our friendly neighbourhood dealer soon for a software update that should fix the problem.
I really shouldn’t like all the pops and bangs that erupt out of the i30 N’s active exhaust when in the right modes. It’s all fake and childish, and yet brilliant at the same time. At lower speeds there’s a satisfying burbling on the overrun, while if you really put your foot down and then change up a gear, a cacophony of machine gun-like bangs fire out of the car’s twin tailpipes. I can’t think of any other modern inline-four-powered car that’s as fun to run through a tunnel as this one.
To begin with, I was convinced the i30 N’s sound system was just a bit meh. But when the car isn’t moving, it’s actually pretty decent. The problem is the engine and road noise at speed drowning half the sound out: we need to do some more scientific testing, but to my ears it seems a lot louder in there than something like a VW Golf GTI. On the whole it’s just not as refined or plush as its Wolfsburg rival, but then it costs a lot less. Spec-for-spec, the equivalent Golf is £5000 more, and isn’t anywhere near as exciting to drive.
Yes, Hyundai has been known up until now for almost exclusively making cars favoured by more mature buyers, meaning the i30 N has no pedigree whatsoever. But it proves that pedigree isn’t actually necessary to build a world-class performance car. Plus, driving around in the thing, I just don’t care that it has a badge that doesn’t quite have a whole lot of kudos.
People who actually know about cars will be aware of what the i30 N is and know it’s awesome, and those who don’t will just see a cool, aggressive-looking hot hatch that’s making one hell of a racket. Will they make a link between it and your nan’s old poverty-spec Accent? I seriously doubt it.